We've all done things for our mothers, big gestures or small, to show how much we care. For New York City Ballet principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht, whose mother was too ill to travel to Manhattan to see him dance, that gesture was to bring the dance to her.
In 2008, Ulbricht organized A Dance Spectacular, which featured other members of NYCB and presented a slice of the troupe's repertory, mostly the legendary works of choreographer George Balanchine. Then he brought the show to his mother, in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla.
The venture proved such a success that when NCYB was off-duty, Ulbricht started bringing the Spectacular to other cities where he or his dancers had personal connections. With three dancers in the current cast having roots in Pittsburgh, the show arrives here on Fri., Oct. 15, at the Byham Theater.
Ulbricht and company will present six short ballet works. Four are by Balanchine, including the tambourine-tapping "Tarantella," which Ulbricht will dance with NYCB corps de ballet dancer, and former Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, student Stephanie Zungre. There's also an excerpt from "Apollo," danced by Pittsburgh native and former NYCB principal Stephen Hanna (now starring on Broadway in Billy Elliot) and NYCB corps de ballet dancer Faye Arthurs (yet another former PYB student).
Other Balanchine works include the "Diamonds Pas de Deux," from the ballet Jewels, and "Who Cares?" featuring music by George Gershwin.
Also on the program is August Bournonville's classical-ballet masterwork "Flower Festival Pas de Deux," danced by Ulbricht and regular partner and fellow NYCB principal dancer Sterling Hyltin. A contemporary solo work choreographed by former North Carolina Dance Theatre dancer Servy Gallardo, meanwhile, takes full advantage of Ulbricht's high-flying leaping ability.
Because the Spectacular shows are self-produced, Ulbricht has been betting on personal connections to carry box-office sales. His plans include expanding to cities where world-class dance productions are rare.
"I do want to go into areas that are starving for the arts, but I need to do my homework on whether the community will support a performance like this," says Ulbricht, by phone from New York.
Beyond any personal connections, however, the production is an instant draw for dance audiences: a chance to see dancers from one of the world's elite ballet companies in a bevy of stellar works.
"It is kind of a traveling exhibit," says Ulbricht. "I am able to bring these great works to audiences that might only see them if they came to New York."
Daniel Ulbricht presents A Dance Spectacular 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 15. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $25.75-45.75. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org